The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced a 23-year-old man to 12 years in prison on Wednesday for murdering a man with a sword as the victim was driving with his relatives. The convict, calling the proceedings unjust, said he would appeal the verdict.
Sok Chhun, who was unemployed at the time, was arrested on March 20 last year at his home in Russei Keo district and charged with murder for allegedly hacking Ly Apuma, a factory worker, on the back of the neck with a sword as the victim was driving his motorbike down Russian Boulevard.
In a closing statement on August 2, the deputy prosecutor, Che Song, claimed that Mr. Chhun had committed the crime out of jealousy after a woman named Chan, a former lover, took up with Ly Apuma.
Announcing his decision on Wednesday, Presiding Judge Svay Tonh said Mr. Chhun was guilty of murder, sentencing him to 12 years in prison and ordering him to pay 10 million riel, or about $2,500, to the victim’s mother.
Mr. Chhun and his lawyer said the decision was wrong.
“The verdict is too harsh, as there is no testimony to inculpate him,” said Heng Sota, Mr. Chhun’s lawyer, adding that he would appeal the decision on behalf of his client.
He said the court had relied on the testimony of one unreliable witness—Mat Safidi, who was driving the motorbike carrying Ly Apuma when the murder happened, and claimed to have seen Mr. Chhun brandish the sword in his rearview mirror.
Speaking from the court’s holding room, Mr. Chhun, who had previously said that he was at home with his mother at the time of the crime, again protested his innocence.
“The court sentenced me to 12 years in prison,” he said. “This is extremely unjust for me because I didn’t commit the crime.”
Ly Vanna, 27, the victim’s sister, said that the conviction was satisfactory.
“If the judge decided this way, I will follow his decision,” she said. “It is appropriate.”